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Bracketology 2021: How the bubble look according to bracketologists on February 23rd

We take the projections from the best bracketologists, and average them to see who most likely gets to The Big Dance, and who will be left home Selection Sunday.

Saint Louis Billikens guard Jordan Goodwin drives to the basket during the second half against the Minnesota Gophers at Williams Arena.
Saint Louis Billikens guard Jordan Goodwin drives to the basket during the second half against the Minnesota Gophers at Williams Arena. 
Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

It will never be more challenging to predict the NCAA Tournament field than in 2021. Some teams on the bubble are over 25 games played, while other are short of 14. How do you weight conferences when there’s been so little inter-conference play?

To help figure it out, we choose the Wisdom of The Crowd to decide which teams are in and which teams are out of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Similar to Nate Silver’s model of predicting elections, we’ll take the data from five bracketologists and update it each week. All bracket makers shall be counted equally, and we’ll ask expert for their 16 teams on the bubble: The last eight in the NCAA Tournament in their estimation, and the first eight out.

Some list this data automatically with their bracket projections, but for the others we’ll reach out to directly to get their most accurate picture.

Our “model” is pretty simple: 16 points for being the eighth-from-last team in the NCAA tournament, to one point for having seven teams between you and even making the First Four. If a team has an average of 9.0 points or higher, they should reach the NCAA field according to the averages.

Because some teams will avoid the last-eight-in all-together, while other brackets will have that same team on the bubble, we’ll mark teams “Safe” that are ahead of the 16 points available on the top “next four in” line.

Our bracketologists:
Joe Lunardi, ESPN.com
Chris Dobbertean, Blogging The Bracket
Patrick Stevens, Washington Post
Shelby Mast, Bracketwag.com
Kerry Miller, Bleacher Report

Below are the bubble selections for all our tracked bracketologists:

2021 NCAA Tournament Bubble February 23

Points ESPN Blogging the Bracket Washington Post Bracket Wag Bleacher Report
Points ESPN Blogging the Bracket Washington Post Bracket Wag Bleacher Report
16 Maryland Seton Hall St. Bonaventure St. Bonaventure Louisville
15 Louisville San Diego State Rutgers VCU Drake
14 Seton Hall Xavier Maryland Colorado State Minnesota
13 VCU Indiana Saint Louis Wichita State Colorado State
Last Four In
12 Indiana Duke Indiana Seton Hall VCU
11 Xavier Stanford Seton Hall Maryland Indiana
10 Minnesota VCU Stanford Minnesota St. Bonaventure
9 Colorado St. Drake Colorado State Duke Seton Hall
First Four Out
8 Stanford UConn Drake Indiana Duke
7 UConn Colorado St. Minnesota Syracuse Saint Louis
6 Duke Minnesota Richmond UConn Wichita State
5 Richmond Richmond UConn Georgia Tech Michigan State
Next Four Out
4 Saint Louis St. John's Duke St. John's Syracuse
3 SMU Saint Louis Utah St. Stanford Stanford
2 Utah St. Michigan State Western Kentucky Ole Miss Richmond
1 Georgia Tech Western Kentucky Syracuse Utah St. Utah St.

Here are the averages for the teams on the bubble. Remember an average of 9.0 or better means you should be in the tournament.

Bubble Team Bracketology Averages

Team Points Safe Average
Team Points Safe Average
Louisville 31 3 Safe 15.50
St. Bonaventure 42 2 Safe AQ 14.00
Maryland 41 2 Safe 13.67
VCU 50 1 Safe 12.50
Seton Hall 62 N/A 12.40
Indiana 56 N/A 11.20
Drake 32 2 Safe AQ 10.67
Colorado St. 52 N/A 10.40
Minnesota 47 N/A 9.40
Duke 39 N/A 7.80
Stanford 35 N/A 7.00
SMU 29 N/A 5.80
Saint Louis 27 N/A 5.40
UConn 26 N/A 5.20
Richmond 18 N/A 3.60
Syracuse 12 N/A 2.40
St. John's 8 N/A 1.60
Michigan State 7 N/A 1.40
Utah St. 7 N/A 1.40
Georgia Tech 6 N/A 1.20
Western Kentucky 3 N/A 0.60

Since last week, North Carolina has removed all doubt with a 35-point win over Louisville. Boise State did too with a pair of wins over Mountain West rival Utah State.

It’s not surprising that Saint Louis as a potential at-large bid from a mid-major conference has the biggest Delta of all the teams in the field: They range from sixth-team out to avoiding the First Four all-together across all brackets. How the selection committee views mid-major teams with quality records and wins will be the key to determining who’s in and who’s out of the field.